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Falcons-Bears matchup of the day: Thursday

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Dan Parr
Associate editor

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By Dan Parr

Here's a look at a key matchup heading into Sunday's battle between the Falcons and Bears:

Falcons C Joe Hawley and ORG Garrett Reynolds vs. Bears' interior pass rush

The Falcons had consistency on their offensive line for three straight seasons. The same five players started on the O-line for three straight openers, but the streak will come to an end Sunday. The departure of ORG Harvey Dahl in free agency and Todd McClure's knee will give a couple of younger players their first career starts.

Garrett Reynolds, a fifth-round pick in 2009, beat out Mike Johnson to win the job at right guard in camp, and Joe Hawley, a fourth-round pick in 2010, will fill in for McClure, who is recovering from knee surgery, at center. It will snap McClure's franchise record for consecutive starts at 144.

Look for the Bears to get creative to test the young blockers on the interior. Chicago didn't do a lot of stunting with the front four last season, but it's possible D-coordinator Rod Marinelli could roll DE Julius Peppers inside or bring extra pressure from MLB Brian Urlacher on a blitz through the left A gap.

With Peppers and DTs Henry Melton and Amobi Okoye — whom the Bears are comfortable using inside and outside — the Falcons' new blood on the O-line will face some tough looks. The Bears could have more success getting pressure on QB Matt Ryan by trying to expose that potential weakness rather than challenging the good but not great tandem of OLT Sam Baker and ORT Tyson Clabo off the edges.

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